Writing is not the same anymore. Where beautiful poetry and theatre pieces blossomed with Shakespeare and his contemporaries, it seems as if new writing in the 21stcentury has gone into overdrive – an unspoken competition in who can write the most absurd and disturbing nonsense is taking place. So when you finally stumble over that little unique, beautiful and honest piece you’ve been waiting for as a passionate theatre-goer, a round of applause at the curtain call doesn’t quite seem enough.
The Finborough must be the smallest theatre I have ever set foot in. Connected to a small wine bar it has a low-key charm and brings theatre back to its roots – small and entertaining with a strong focus on the piece. And what a piece An Incident at the Border is.
A couple find themselves in an absurd situation as a brand-new border guard divides the park – and also the bench they are sitting on – in two. They find themselves in two different countries at war with each other, unable to cross the border and be re-united. The play explores the imaginary lines in life and how these divide and affect us. It questions authority and individuality and how to cope with both.
Kieran Lynn’s script is beautifully written and breathtakingly charming. The dialogue is clever and spot on, there’s never a word too much and the comic timing is as stunning as the border guard’s stun gun itself. Lynn has a remarkable sense of characters and relationships and places his three victims in a setting that brings out very honest statements and questions about politics, love and how our society works.
His words are set alight by big performances which make the small space their own, leaving the audience holding their breath and leaning forward to get even closer to the characters. Tom Bennett’s Arthur is sweet and earthy as he tries to cope with his chatty girlfriend and wishes his life was as simple as a duck’s. Florence Hall plays Olivia with such a temper and passion it’s as if she’s stuck a bunch of firecrackers up her jeans. The lovers’ relationship burns like a Bunsen burner and it is a pleasure to see such young and promising talent in London’s commercialised theatre industry.
Marc Pickering is better than half the actors in Hollywood as Reiver, the painfully stupid border guard who keeps the couple separated by commands from a boss he has never even met. Pickering is wet-your-pants-crying-out-loud funny and the cast works organically together and bounce off each other making it one of those rare, electrical experiences that still tingles in your bones hours after you’ve left the theatre.
Director Bruce Guthrie has managed to get a unique bunch of charming talent together for his exciting take on Lynn’s writing and, with the assistance of Sophia Simensky’s simple and natural design and Humphrey McDermott’s impressive lighting, this is a small, flawless production that augurs a promising new wave of playwriting and performance. It is clear that the whole production team has worked as a unit which makes it a beautiful, smooth piece to watch. They’ve cast their spell and it works wonders on the audience; we disappears into another world without realising and it’s a shock when the lights come up and the show is over.
I have never seen a play where I was so mesmerised that it felt like two seconds of my life had flown by rather than eighty minutes. I felt out of place leaving the theatre – desperate to go back.
An Incident at the Border is playing at the Finborough Theatre until 7th August. For more information and tickets, see the Finborough Theatre website.